05/28/2013 04:03 EDT | Updated 07/28/2013 05:12 EDT

Senate Expense Scandal: Senators Spar Over Wording Of Duffy Report

OTTAWA - Things got testy in the Senate on Tuesday as Liberal Leader James Cowan and Tory Sen. David Tkachuk debated the wording of a report from Tkachuk's internal economy committee.

Cowan wondered why a report on Sen. Mike Duffy was edited to remove references to "clear" and "unambiguous" rules on residence expenses, while the words stayed in reports about two other senators, Mac Harb and Patrick Brazeau.

Tkachuk said it was because Duffy repaid the questioned expenses.

Here is a partial transcript of the subsequent exchange:

Cowan: You said the language was unambiguous. It's the same form, it's the same guidelines, it's the same language. How can you report to the Senate that it is amply clear and unambiguous with respect to two senators and not the same conclusion with the third senator?

Tkachuk: If I had received a cheque from Sen. Brazeau and Sen. Harb, their reports might have been a lot different as well.

Cowan: How can the fact of repayment, whether it's with his money or anybody else's money, that's a fact for another day, but how can the fact of Sen. Duffy's repayment affect your opinion or the committee's opinion as to the clarity or lack of clarity or the unambiguity or ambiguity of the language? The two are completely unrelated. What's the connection here? What am I missing?

Tkachuk: You know what, you have a narrative, and you insist on that narrative. The narrative is wrong, the narrative is wrong. Sen. Duffy said he may have been mistaken, and he delivered a cheque, which is exactly what you and Sen. (Marjory) LeBreton asked us to do, which was to collect the money with interest. All monies to be paid with interest, which is exactly what we did, and he delivered a cheque to us in March and paid it. So the report reflected that, Sen. Cowan.

Cowan: The question is, how could your opinion as to whether ... I might look at a document, and I might say it's clear, you might say it's unclear, but if we're looking at the same document, how can we say it's clear in two cases and unclear in the third case? How would the fact of repayment, that's completely irrelevant to whether the language or the form is clear and unambiguous. How could it possibly affect that, Sen. Tkachuk?

Tkachuk: The committee adopted the report, and the report sits here for debate in this chamber. So we can have a long debate on this matter when we get to it, but all I'm trying to do is reflect what my narrative is, which is that Sen. Duffy repaid the money, Sen. Duffy had said that he may have been mistaken, so therefore the report reflected that.

Cowan: That is relevant to whether or not the language in the document is clear? What's the connection?

Tkachuk: I've given you my answer, you have a right to ask the questions you've asked, but now you've repeated it for the third or fourth time. Don't badger me about this. Just ask me the question and I'll try to give you the answer. I've given you the answer, and I'm not going to change that answer.

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